How to dispute incorrect information in your credit report?
In a prior article, I explain the importance of disputing information with the credit bureaus as the first step towards fixing errors in credit reports. Here I answer this question: how do I dispute incorrect information in my credit report? Sorry to disappoint you: there is no magic form or formula for your dispute. However, there are some right and wrong ways you can go about it.
Let’s use the hypothetical scenario described in the prior article, that is, where ABC Bank misreported information about your mortgage to Equifax. The approach is the same for any other false or incomplete information that appears in a credit report.
Letter and copy
Write a letter to the credit bureau, in plain and simple English, explaining the problem and how it should be fixed. Include in the letter a copy of the page of the report showing the misreported information and attach other applicable documents, for example, a copy of a statement from ABC Bank showing that you paid-off the mortgage ahead of schedule. Be 100% truthful. Let me say it again, be 100% truthful.
Remember that your dispute will likely be processed by a credit bureau employee that does nothing but handle disputes, tons and tons of them. Tell him/her in that letter clearly what the problem is. Give him/her proof that you are right and the bank is wrong. Write that dispute so that any idiot who reads it can readily see that you are right and the bank is wrong.
I call that the “any idiot standard”. In the event it is necessary for you to file a lawsuit to fix the misreporting, your lawyer will be able to argue something like this: “Your Honor, any idiot who read my client’s dispute letter and attached documents should have seen that ABC Bank reported false information about the mortgage to Equifax.”
Number the pages to show they are part of a document. So, for example, if you send a one-page letter and two attached pages, label them at the bottom of each page “1 of 3”, “2 of 3” and “3 of 3” so there won’t be any question that you sent 3 pages. Send your dispute to the credit bureau certified return receipt requested.
Send a carbon-copy (yes, I know, today it is called a photocopy) of the Equifax dispute to ABC Bank, also certified return receipt requested, at the address shown on the Equifax credit report. Keep a copy of your dispute (all pages). I suggest that you also make a copy of the front and back of both envelopes (the one to the credit bureau and the one to the bank), with the return green cards already attached, before you take them to the U.S. Post Office. Should either the bank or the bureau deny receipt of your dispute, you will have essentially irrefutable proof that you sent it.
By the way, you may be wondering why you need to send a copy of the dispute to the bank, given the explanation that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires you to dispute with the credit bureau. Just do it. If you really want to know why, call me and I will explain it.
Needless to say, if ABC Bank also misreported the information to Experian and TransUnion, you need to dispute with them too (and send the carbon-copies to the addresses shown in the respective credit reports). Thus, you will have to send 3 disputes and 3 carbon copies. Don’t forget to keep copies of everything you mail.
What not to do
In passing, please note what I suggest you not do. There are three possible channels to assert your dispute with the credit bureau: (1) mail; (2) phone; (3) internet. Please only dispute by mail (certified, return receipt requested). Do not use the phone or the internet. Do not use the phone or the internet. Do not use the phone or the internet. That was not an editing error; I wanted to drive the point home by repeating it three times.
Here is why. If you lodge your dispute by phone, who knows how the Equifax employee will characterize it. A mischaracterization of your dispute may result in ABC Bank not fixing the inaccurate reporting when it should have if it were properly notified of the nature of your dispute. For example, the Equifax employee may tell ABC Bank that you contend that the debt in question (the mortgage in our example) is not yours, instead of correctly indicating that you had paid the mortgage. Plus, you will have no way to attach documents–documents which may clearly show why your dispute is meritorious so that the reported information must to be corrected.
If you file your dispute online, you will get a nice confirmation email, but you will not get a copy of what you wrote. If you need to hire a lawyer, he/she will want to evaluate the quality of your dispute, in other words, whether you adequately told the credit bureau why the information reported about your mortgage was inaccurate. Not being able to see what you told the credit bureau, the lawyer will tell you to do your dispute again . . . this time by mail, certified return receipt requested.
Results of your dispute
In a few days, you will get a response from Equifax. If the misreporting is fixed, congratulations. You did what the FCRA required you to do: dispute with the credit bureau. The bank and the credit bureau did what the FCRA required them to do: correct the error. If the credit bureau did not fix the problem, you now have the right to go to court to get it fixed. However, depending on your personal situation, you may want to try again.